A meeting of the D.C. Taxicab Commission erupted in shouts and protests this morning when two reporters were placed in handcuffs and removed by U.S. Park Police officers.
About 30 taxi drivers walked out in protest, upset that Peter Tucker of thefightback.org was led out of the meeting in handcuffs after commission interim chairman Dena Reed asked that he be removed.
“He did nothing. He never disturbed the meeting,” said driver Negede Abebe. The meeting was held at Park Police East headquarters in Anacostia Park.
A second reporter, Jim Epstein from Reason TV, was also detained. A park police spokesman said both would be charged with disorderly and unlawful entry. Both are misdemeanors.
A video shows the aftermath of the reporters’ removal:
Update, 4:15 p.m.: Tucker said he was charged with disorderly conduct and “unlawful entry/remaining.” He was released from custody about 3 p.m.
Tucker said that he was arrested after being directed to stop photographing the meeting of the Taxicab Commission, which was held at Park Police headquarters in Southeast Washington. Tucker has been chronicling the dealings of the taxicab industry on his Web site and WUST-AM radio, including a recent proposal to create a medallion system in the city.
A commission staff member, he said, directed an officer to remove Tucker and Epstein, cueing a discussion about why recording the meeting wasn’t allowed. Dena Reed, interim chairwoman of the commission, did not object when he was told to stop taping, Tucker said.
“The Park Police came, pointed me out and said, ‘You need to come with me.’ I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I said, ‘I’m a reporter; this is a public meeting.’ ... It was a pretty reasonable back-and-forth.”
Tucker was then arrested and taken to a holding cell elsewhere in the building. An officer, he said, offered to let him out without charges if he promised not to take pictures or return to the meeting. He refused to do so.
Earlier in the meeting, Tucker said, Reed objected when he placed a microphone near her seat; he was told to place it some distance away. Previous commission meetings, he said, have included signs notifying attendees that no photograhps or recordings are allowed.
District law requires meetings of governmental bodies to be open to the public, with few exceptions. It does not, however, specifically address whether photographs or recordings are permitted.
Reason TV editor Nick Gillespie acknowleged Epstein’s arrest in a blog post this afternoon and said an attorney was working to secure his release.
A staff member at the Taxicab Commission referred questions to Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s communications office. Spokeswoman Linda Wharton Boyd had no immediate response and said she was looking into the matter.
Update, 4:45 p.m.:Tucker said Epstein has also been released.
This post has been updated since it was first published.